Pay and benefits feature prominently in postal reform bill

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is shepherding the forced retirement language and several other provisions. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is shepherding the forced retirement language and several other provisions. Susan Walsh/AP

This story has been updated.

The Senate will resume debate on postal reform Tuesday, considering several amendments to its bill that would affect workers’ pay and benefits.

Measures that would prohibit collective bargaining at the U.S. Postal Service, require retirement-eligible employees to retire, and increase the amount workers contribute to their health benefits and life insurance are among the 39 amendments the Senate plans to vote on as part of the 21st Century Postal Service Act (S. 1789). Other amendments would limit executive pay at USPS, remove language scaling back workers’ compensation benefits, and curtail the amount agencies can spend on government conferences.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is shepherding a few amendments to S. 1789, including one that would force the Postal Service to dismiss workers who are eligible for retirement to reduce expenses. The legislation in its current form allows USPS to offer buyouts to eligible employees to reduce personnel costs, but Coburn believes requiring eligible workers to retire is a smarter and more cost-effective downsizing strategy. “S. 1789 would provide buyouts -- essentially cash bonuses or years of service credits -- to encourage postal employees to decide to retire,” said a summary of the amendment from Coburn’s office. “But there is a real risk that these buyouts will go to workers who would already be planning to retire anyway. That is, these buyouts may essentially be retirement gifts to already retiring workers.”

Coburn’s office cited USPS data stating that 30 percent of its current workforce is eligible to retire.

The amendment would apply only to postal employees currently eligible to receive a full pension under the Civil Service Retirement System or the Federal Employees Retirement System. Coburn cited mandatory retirement for federal law enforcement officers as a potential model for the Postal Service. Federal law enforcement officers are required to retire after 20 years of service or at age 57.

Coburn also is pushing an amendment to increase transparency of government conference spending, which would cap the amount agencies can spend on conferences and limit the number of employees from one agency traveling to an international conference. The Oklahoma senator has long been a critic of excessive federal spending on travel and meetings. “Dr. Coburn believes the problem with conference spending is Congress, not the [General Services Administration] or any other agency,” said a statement from Coburn’s office. “Congress has fostered a spring-break mentality at agencies by looking the other way.”

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has offered an amendment that would prohibit collective bargaining, while Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., is seeking to limit executive compensation. Paul also put forth an amendment that would provide merit pay for the postmaster general and limit the authority of USPS to award bonuses.

As for health care benefits, the bill would allow USPS to work with its unions to develop a health care plan for workers outside the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Some have argued that would lead to an increase in how much postal employees pay for their health care. An amendment from Sen. John (Jay) Rockefeller, D-W.Va., would ensure any new health program would provide benefits comparable to those under FEHBP.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain’s substitute to S. 1789, offered as an amendment, would require postal workers to contribute the same premium percentage as other federal employees. Currently, USPS picks up the tab for about 80 percent of the premiums while most other federal agencies pay 72 percent of employees' premiums.

Update: Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., plans to offer the amendment limiting executive pay for senior officials at the Postal Service. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., withdrew a similar amendment.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.